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March 20, 2017
Herbs. Your allies for Well Being - Part 1

I cook for so many people. I’ve cooked for all of you for so many years… and the truth is that my favorite allies in most of my recipes are some wonderful herbs that really go unnoticed. I love thyme and rosemary so much that I add it to almost everything I make!

All herbs can boost the flavors of my recipes and they are an integral part of the way in which I put together my various culinary suggestions.

Are they just flavor enhancers though?

I will answer that! They aren’t just for flavor. It’s all of those… I could say, magical properties that they offer us…. antioxidant, anti-stress and they also help with nutritional balance.

Spearmint or Peppermint: An Antioxidant Booster

Past: Mint got its name from the nymph Minthe who was unlucky enough to have Pluto fall in love with her and he transformed her into a vegetable or Persephone along with a little help from her mother Demeter. But Pluto was so upset over losing her that he gave her this particular aroma that lingers so that he could always remember her always.

Now there’s a love story from ancient times that brings so much flavor to our recipes!

Properties: Apart from the fresh taste it gives, it helps with digestion and is a good source of vitamin C, manganese and copper. It has exceptional anti-oxidant qualities and strengthens the intestine when it is sensitive as well as strong antibacterial qualities.

I enjoy it: Raw in salads or fruit salads, as a beverage or just with yogurt.

Basil: The ally of our immune system 

Past: Its name comes from the Ocimum basilicum and it is also known as sweet basil or Thai basil. It is also part of the same family as mint and peppermint (Lamiaceae family). Also, it is known as the "royal herb", and besides its use in cooking, it has been connected with religion not only in Greece but also in ancient Egypt. In the ancient times, some people used it as a medicinal herb, while others considered that it gave strength during fasting periods. 

Properties: It is rich in anthocyanins, while it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Fresh basil has barely 40 calories in 100 g, it is high in vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron which in its turn, boosts the immune system's good function.   

I enjoy it: with pasta dishes, pesto sauce, while it suits perfectly with fish too. 

Rosemary:  The natural anti-inflammatory

Past: Its English name comes from Latin origin… rosmarinos that means the freshness of the sea, since it grows on dry slopes near the sea with an abundance of sun and a small amount of water in Mediterranean countries.  

Properties: Rosemary has antithrombotic qualities and can act as a mild analgesic (for instance it can relieve migraines). It is also a very potent antibacterial plant that offers a special flavor and exceptional oral health. It works as an anti-inflammatory and increases our body’s resistance to many viruses. It is also very beneficial to intestinal health.

I enjoy it: Mainly raw so that it doesn’t lose any of its properties, in marinades for meats, poultry and fish.

Parsley: The powerful diuretic.

Past: The English name is of Norman origin and altered from the medieval family name Passelewe that was assimilated by folk etymology to the herb name parsly. The medieval name is from Old French passe “to pass or cross” + l’ewe “the water”

The Greek word for parsley really has an adventurous origin… In ancient times it was called “Macedonian rockcelery” since it grew in rugged and rocky areas in Macedonia. Over the years only the name Macedonian was used. Then, during the Turkish siege it was named “magdanoz” and today paraphrased, has come to be called “maintanos”.

Properties: Its properties are many and very useful. It seems that in the future it will be able to help us regulate diabetes. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Due to its high calcium and folic acid concentration it can enhance bone health if it is consumed daily in sufficient amounts. The consumption of parsley can help us get rid of water retention that we may have after eating too much salt since it has great diuretic properties.  Care needs to be taken not to eat large amounts of parsley when someone has kidney disease, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

I enjoy it: Mainly raw in pasta or soups, especially tomato soups. It blends wonderfully with vegetables and fruit salads.

Parsley contains a very wide range of nutrients and almost the full range of vitamins and minerals (in small quantities). It also contains volatile substances which stimulate the sense of smell bringing about a high production of saliva and thus better digestion.

Coriander: Your ally against indigestion

Past: Coriander also takes us back to Ancient times, particularly the Mycenaean period. The name Korijadana which was found in the linear B, described this plant and it basically means the daughter of King Minoa, Ariadne!!! So we have a princess in our plates!!

Properties: The aphrodisiac property of coriander has been recorded many years ago since it seems that apart from its antibacterial action, it may cause a mild lipolysis (under certain conditions). Coriander helps to digest foods and also reduces nausea.

I enjoy it: Mainly in fruit plates but also in soups and salads. Coriander contains essential oils, vitamin C and the most minerals and trace elements.

After all of the things I have told you my good friends, I hope I have inspired you to add more herbs to the dishes you cook!!


This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s dietician/nutritionist Christo Papavaggeli.

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